Droll and ornate, elegiac and romantic—the sequel to Wildwood (2011) brings readers deeper into and under the pine-scented, magical world tantalizingly close to Portland, Ore.
Prue is drawn back to Wildwood by herons who rescue her from a trio of terrifying shape-shifters, and there she is reunited with Curtis, who stayed to enjoy the exhilarating life of a bandit-in-training. Attacked at their secret hideout, the bandits vanish. Adrift, Curtis and Septimus the rat join Prue on a quest that takes them under Wildwood, a setting straight out of M.C. Escher with a hint of Hieronymous Bosch. In the Industrial Wastes above, Curtis’ grieving parents search for him after parking his sisters at an orphanage. In this Dickensian institution, children labor to make machine parts, the owner dreams of extending his industrial nightmare into the Impassable Wilderness he sees but can’t reach, and his partner, Desdemona, former B-movie actress in Ukraine, dreams of Hollywood glory. Indulging a free-range imagination, Meloy mulches his verdant wilderness with wildly eclectic cultural references—real (Macbeth, Moby-Dick) and un- (Tax Bracket magazine, Lego replicas of Soviet-era statues). The incomparable Ellis more than rises to the challenge—her sly, wistful, abundant illustrations provide an emotional through line.
Reflecting on her Wildwood experience, Prue “learned to not consider the minutiae of things, but rather take each episode as it came.” Take Prue’s advice and enjoy the ride. (Fantasy. 10-14)